JAMESTOWN – The city of Jamestown now has a budget in place for 2019.
The Jamestown city council voted 7 to 1 Monday night to approve the $36 million spending plan as presented by Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi. Freshman councilman Andrew Liuzzo (at large) provided the only “no” vote while councilwoman Vanessa Weinert (at large) was absent from the meeting.
Prior to the vote Liuzzo made an attempt to introduce several amendments to the spending plan, calling for an across-the-board quarter of a percent cut to spending. He also wanted to see all continuing education expenses for city staff removed, as well as cuts to the parks department summer part-time help and also cuts to the parks department’s plant program budget and instead utilize a greenhouse to save money by instituting a perennial plant program.
The budget relies on an additional $1 million in state aid to help closing a spending gap. Liuzzo said he wanted to see spending cuts so the city didn’t have to rely on bailout money from the state, adding he was disappointed he never received a reply when he initially made his suggestions at the end of October in an email to city officials.
“I asked that we do this for the mayor so that he doesn’t have to ask for a million dollars. Maybe he asks for $700,00 or maybe he asked $815,000, but at least it would show an effort that we’re trying to do what we can. More importantly not for him or for us but for the people of Jamestown to see that anything that could be done is being done,” Liuzzo explained.
In response, ranking city councilman and Finance Committee Chair Tony Dolce challenged Liuzzo for not following up on his email prior to Monday night’s vote on the budget.
“We’ve had three or four meetings since you brought this forward,” Dolce responded. “You never once brought it up last week. You didn’t submit an amendment the day that they were due before the public hearing. You didn’t bring these up. We can’t vote on an amendment that doesn’t have any… what green house? Where are you going to bring [the plants]? Do you have a number for that? Do we have a plan for that? Did you follow through with that? That was your idea.”
Things then became even more heated when Dolce and Liuzzo got into a back-and-forth on the amendment process, with Liuzzo responding to Dolce’s questions as Dolce still had the floor.
“I asked for your help,” Liuzzo interrupted Dolce.
“I’m not a department head. My point is…” Dolce replied before being interrupted again by Liuzzo.
“He has the floor!” councilwoman Kim Ecklund told Liuzzo as he and Dolce continued talking over one another.
“We both can argue about this…” Liuzzo continued before council president Marie Carrubba tried to put an end to the discussion.
“No, you’re not going to argue. Councilman Dolce has the floor,” Carrubba said.
“Then stop asking me questions. Just make your statement and stop asking me questions,” Liuzzo continued.
“But you can post on social media that we didn’t do our jobs, when you didn’t do yours,” Dolce continued, referring to a public post Liuzzo had made on his Facebook page voicing his disappointment for not getting any response to his email three weeks earlier.
In the end no other council member seconded Liuzzo’s motion for his amendments and so they were not voted on. Instead the council eventually passed the spending that includes no property tax increase due to the city already being at its constitutional taxing limit.
Following the meeting Dolce said that the cuts Liuzzo was suggesting were too vague and unrealistic to consider, adding that the council has already worked to identify most of the cuts that could be made in previous years.
“Over the years many amendments have come forward. Whether it’s taking money out of the fund balance or taking money out of contingency or out of the departments. Over the course of several years we’ve already done enough of that. We’re at a point now, where you saw tonight with the police chief, his budget was slashed by 13 percent from his original request, as well as other budgets. And any further cuts to those budgets would directly impact the service that we are providing to the community,” Dolce said.
The total budget is $35,997,962. It includes a 13 cent, or .54 percent, decrease in the tax rate to $23.85 per $1,000 assessed property value.